The Aussie known widely as just “Rinny” was first introduced to triathlon in college, and quickly established herself as an emerging talent with a wicked run. Carfrae stunned even herself when she won the Ironman World Championship in 2010, in only her second attempt at the distance. Today, her focus lies squarely on a singular goal: reclaiming the Kona title.
– “I grew up on a five-acre lettuce farm in Brisbane, just south of the city. I’m one of six kids—I have two brothers and three sisters—and we were very working-class. I just tried to keep up with my brothers on the farm and had to work a little bit as well. I had to fold cartons and carry them back to the trucks. And weeding.
- I was very focused on basketball. I started playing at 7. As a family we were very involved in a local club, and I spent most of my childhood in basketball stadiums, just because my mom managed a bunch of teams and started our basketball club. I played every weekend until I was 16. We had a hoop in the backyard and my brothers would not go easy on me. I absolutely loved it. I wouldn’t say I was an amazing basketball player, but I was competitive on the regional level and just OK at the state level. It was always hard to be selected for teams or be seen because I was always a foot shorter than most of the other girls. I played point guard—it was my only option—but even so there weren’t many people my height. I didn’t think I had the confidence in myself to really stand out in the crowd.
- Triathlon didn’t come into my world until after I finished high school. I was doing some strength training for the upcoming basketball season on the state league team. Weights turned into running as well, and through that I met some triathletes who were training at the same center. We got mixed in with some of the triathletes on the runs and from there I learned about the sport, and about eight months later the triathlon coach asked if ever thought about doing triathlon. His words were, ‘You run really well, have you ever thought about being a triathlete?’ I told him I’d love to try, and he asked if I could swim. I said no, and he told me to bring my swimsuit the next day to see. I dove in and swam 25 meters, looked up at him and he shook his head and walked away. But something inside of me was ignited. I was so excited about the possibility of this new challenge.
- My basketball coach was heartbroken, but he bought my first bike because I couldn’t afford it—I was a poor university student—and I did my first race at the end of 2000. The next year I made the trans junior team, which was so crazy to me—with no background in swimming, biking or running. It just felt right, like I was on the right path. From there every year there were little improvements and signs that I was doing the right thing.
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- As cheesy or cliché as it sounds, I think it was my destiny to do this. This is what I was born to do. I really believe that, and it’s probably part of the reason I’ve been successful. I think my run ability certainly helps me, but you need to have a weapon. If you can’t be strong across all three disciplines, you need to have one that is outstanding. Running just came naturally to me. I never had any formal run coaching—it’s just the way I run. People ask me what drills I do. I don’t do running drills. I never have. I just find a rhythm. I haven’t been through specifically trying to run a certain way or hold a certain pose. That’s just how I run.
- I thrive on pressure. The higher the stakes, the more I can get out of myself. I look at what I’m doing and think, ‘yeah that’s a lot of pressure,’ and it seems like it might be overwhelming, but when the gun goes off, I feel like I’m ready for it and mentally well prepared and I can just go out there and put out my best effort. I didn’t know that about myself until I started racing in Kona.
- I didn’t think that I’d win Kona in my second attempt at the Ironman. It was unreal, kind of like an out-of-body experience. It’s funny how you can pick out voices or familiar faces in the crowd in all the pandemonium coming down Ali’i Drive. When you see the excitement on their faces, it makes it even better—to see how happy they are for you. It’s not an easy feeling to describe.
- In 2011, when Chrissie [Wellington] beat me by two and a half minutes, it was heartbreaking because I don’t believe I raced my best race on the day. I still was right there with her—the greatest woman to ever race Ironman. It was so close, yet so far. And then last year … when you’ve won before and you know what it takes to win and you get to the start line knowing you have everything it takes to put together a great race and then to fall short due to nutrition. It’s a lesson, and hopefully you don’t make those mistakes again in Kona. I’m so blessed to have been able to be in the mix in Kona every time I’ve raced there. I want more from myself and to see how fast I can go on that course. I think I can go a lot faster.
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